Fixing the environmental talent pipeline with the Youth Environmental Service

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Logo: Youth Environmental Service

By Billy Knowles, Programme Director

What if every young person had the opportunity to spend a year doing paid environmental work? What difference would that make to their lives? What connections could they create, skills could they build, and mindsets could be shaped? What could they go on to do for the sector and for our planet?

Group of youth workers in the field
New to Nature - Cover photo (Groundwork UK)

The Youth Environmental Service (YES) is a new programme aiming to do just that. Building on the foundations of programmes from around the world (like the American Climate corps in America) and in other sectors (such as TeachFirst) YES is aiming to give every young person the opportunity to spend a year doing paid environmental work to help save the planet.

This means fixing a broken talent pipeline for young people who want to embark on an environmental career. We’re working to open up access for young people in underrepresented communities, redirecting the funnel so that everyone has the same opportunities to join the sector. And we’re trying to widen the pipe, creating new opportunities and encouraging environmental organisations to think youth-first when they consider new role requirements.

In practice this will look like a cross-sector, cross-organisation programme of year-long paid work placements. The Youth Environmental Service will support with awareness building and promotion of the roles to underrepresented communities. It will help ensure recruitment is done inclusively and accessibly, with a focus on attitude and willingness to learn over educational background and voluntary experience. Throughout the year, the participants will be provided support and learning opportunities to help them build the foundations for future success, and the organisations will be supported to get the most out of their new hires. We will facilitate connections across placements, both between participants and the wider organisations network, to ensure this becomes a movement, not a set of isolated interventions. And finally at the end of the year YES will support the young people to go on to build their career, be it with their host organisation or in the wider world.

Get paid to save the planet graphic

This has been created in partnership with over 100 environmental organisations, young people, and experts who have helped to shape our understanding of the issues and our plans for solving them. We’re now beginning to test these ideas in practice. With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we’re partnering with Groundwork UK, The Prince’s Trust, and others, to place 95 young people from diverse, disadvantaged or disabled backgrounds into nature-focused charities and public organisations across the country.

The programme, New to Nature, is our opportunity to explore the realities of making this happen in practice. Working with Groundwork UK and other partners, we’re identifying nature-focused host organisations who can create exciting and important opportunities for 95 young trainees. 

Equally, YES would love to connect with like-minded individuals and organisations across the sector. Our long-term success for YES depends on it being part of a network of organisations all pushing in the same direction. If you believe that the sector needs to transform its talent pipeline to create the next generation of confident, connected and capable environmentalists, or you’d just like to find out more about the New to Nature pilot, please reach out to Billy Knowles, the programme director, at

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Posted On: 03/11/2022

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